A Quality of Presence

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

He was at prayer in a certain place,
and when he finished, one of the disciples asked,
“Master, teach us to pray…”
Luke 11:1

Seeker,
Has anyone ever asked, “How are you being?”

Though “doing nothing” and “being busy”
may seem contradictory in essence,
they each describe a certain quality of presence.

A vague memory
stirs of early
school days,

when our overwrought teacher
sought to educate us
on verbs and nouns.

“Verbs,” she extolled,
“are ‘doing words’.
They tell about something we can DO.”

Offering a few examples,
she tasked her eager pupils
to make lists of ‘doing words’.

Quickly, I exhausted those activities
that easily stream into a young mind;
“running, fishing, playing …”,

till I was arrested, mid-flow,
by a conundrum:
Is ‘being’ a ‘doing word’?

For the first time,
I witnessed hesitation in my teacher as,
unselfconsciously, I shared my simple query.

Blissfully unaware
of philosophical ramifications,
I was merely interested in one more word for my list.

“Yes, ‘being’ is a verb,” she asserted.
“But it doesn’t tell about WHAT we are doing.
It tells us HOW we are doing … the way we do something.”

We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God,
who regards not the greatness of the work,
but the love with which it is performed.
Brother Lawrence

It is helpful
to keep in mind
how we have named ourselves.

Human beings,
are ‘BE-ers’ who can DO,
not only ‘DO-ers’ who can also BE.

Nor are being and doing
ever mutually exclusive.
There is always , in both, a quality of presence that bears attention.

No matter where we place our self,
we bring with us a state of mind and heart
that extends some degree of engagement.

How and how deeply
we choose to relate and connect
determines our action and the way we are affected.

Where can I escape your spirit
or flee from your presence?
Psalm 139:7

Wherever I am, You are already there!
Praying, it seems, is a ‘being word’;
a way of being present and engaged.

Whether in the infinite experience of mountain-top amazement
or awe-filled intimacy of the vale of shadow and pain,
prayerfulness invites a quality of presence and attention.

Whenever we fall – body, mind, soul –
into un-self-conscious presence, we become receptive
of the raw reality of being in presence engaged.

Whether walking, washing dishes, tending to garden or neighbor,
when we set the heart a-wondering,
the soul will surely seek out connection.

This quality of being prayerfully engaged
may be practiced
but not programmed.

If I have faith enough to move mountains but I am lacking love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2

But, if we fixate on the mechanics of meditation,
‘doing it right’, or the correctness of our ideas, ‘being right,’
prayers and presumptions prevent us being in loving relationship.

No wonder the Teacher
avoided offering pupils
a method on which to hang the properties of prayerful engagement.

Christ above us, beneath us,
beside us, within us,
what need have we for temples made with hands?
George MacLeod

Rather, the Master modeled
prayerful attention and waited
for the hunger to present itself.

Helping hands are better than praying lips. Mother Teresa

In your rising and laying down,
may you let that quality of Omnipresence
envelop, assail and inspire you to engagement.

joe

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Awe-Inclined

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

Amazement seized them all and, filled with awe, they glorified the Holy One.
Luke 5:26

Seeker, How often are you awe-inspired?

Deluged by the misery and marvel of being alive,
the awake ones are awe-filled folk.
That’s how we can tell who’s slumbering and who’s actually ‘woke’.

When we let life touch or tear at our hearts,
like a cold shower astonishment assails us,
stealing our breath.

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement … get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed. Abraham Heschel

Awe is the fruit
of a daring decision
to unwrap the fullness of the present.

Though originally it describes dread,
applied to the unknowable, awe evokes reverence;
trepidation that honors realities beyond our ken.

Such bone-deep awareness
of the mystery of being alive,
inoculates us from prideful presumption.

Let the whole earth fear the Holy One;
and all the world’s inhabitants stand in awe.
Psalm 33:8

Wonder, that blossoms as astonishment,
ripens into awe when hearts are humbled
by the revelation of our smallness.

In awe we are intimidated
by the fathomless breadth
at the Source of All That Is.

Putting us in our place,
awe resizes us from supersize,
to minimize, to magnanimous.

Fear of the Holy is where wisdom begins. Proverbs 9:10

There is electricity to awe.
In the end, ‘holy fear’ is the result
of a freshly charged perspective on the depth of our unknowing.

Awe-filled moments are apertures;
glimpses of the layers of love, pain and connection
accessible to any who care enough to pay attention.

Being thunderstruck awakens us.
Being awestruck silences us.
Being grateful liberates us to unblock the free flow of goodness.

Again and again
Some people wake up.
They have no ground in the crowd
And they emerge according to broader laws.
They carry strange customs with them,
And demand room for bold gestures.
The future speaks ruthlessly through them.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Without reverence we are reckless,
without fear we are foolish, without awe
we are blind to the bountiful Source of all good gifts.

As we learn
how to listen to our fears
we are no longer limited by them.

And when awe is allowed in,
there is no such thing as ordinary;
every encounter is en-spirited; every thing feels near and dear.

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.
Abraham Heschel

When ‘aweless’ we are likely to become lawless;
liable to desecrate
life and lives we barely understand.

But, with a quiver of vulnerability,
barefoot, awe approaches the Mystery
at the burning heart of it all.

Science can open a window to wonder
when ‘did you know?’ becomes ‘are you amazed?’;
as ‘how?’ begs ‘why?’ and eventually ‘whom?’

May you become awe-inclined,
with amazement your motivation;
reverently holding up each relationship in blessed consecration.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Now Available: A New Book by Joe Grant


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The Blessing Way

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

And Mary sang:
My innermost being magnifies the Most High,
my spirit rejoices in the One who heals,
who has lovingly looked upon the lowliest of servants.
From now on, all generations will call me blessed …
Luke 1:46-48

What might it mean to be blessed and to be a blessing?

Years ago, while overseeing intake
at a women’s shelter on a frigid Chicago night,
I broke the chilling news that there was no more room.

Painfully, I instructed
the waiting line
to seek warmth elsewhere.

When offering direction to a bundled woman,
she extended an icy hand,
exuded a warm smile and thanked me.

With unexpected calm,
she addressed my distress
by declaring: ‘It’s alright, not to worry, I am blessed!’

Bemused and disturbed,
I watched her shamble off,
down the windswept city street.

With nowhere to lay her head, how can she be blessed?
While daily, I am undone by mundane frustrations,
she, with just cause for indignation, chose to bless.

The Beatitudes are a set of descriptions of a free life … When you can weep, when you can identify with the little ones, when you can make peace, when you can be persecuted and still be joyful; then you’re doing it right. Richard Rohr

Among the oft-quoted, least heeded of Jesus’ teachings,
the Beatitudes describe poor, grieving, gentle, forgiving, clear-hearted,
justice-minded, peaceable, persecuted folk as the blessed ones.

Such wisdom upends our understanding
of what it usually means to be graced
blessed, lucky, fortunate, charmed, happy.

Driving home his disconcerting doctrine,
Jesus added the mandate to bless all who curse us
and love any who would call us ‘enemy’.

Can we place ourselves among that tribe of poor,
mourning, meek, merciful, peace and justice-hungry people?
If not, we may be looking for another brand of benediction.

The blessed are not the sure, sinless, successful, or well-liked;
but the little ones who live and love out of a foundational sense
of complete interdependence we call grace.

Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder. For the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.
Just to be is blessing. Just to live is holy.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel

Blessing expresses both our motivation and life-orientation.
When we bless, we are not making holy.
We are simply declaring what is already, always sacred.

There is much in life we cannot alter;
brutality and hatreds that tear us apart, and pains we cannot take away.
Still, we can choose to bless, come what may!

This blessing power is a love-force, available to all,
and capable of transforming how we perceive
receive and relate to whatever comes our way.

Blessed child of earth and sky,
your life is precious, holy, always sacred,
and so is every other.

Only those who know their blessedness
can be a blessing to others.
So, blessed child of the Holy One, may you live up to your name,

joe
Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Now available: A New Book by Joe Grant